Water, Fire, Music and Community Meet at Providence, RI’s Annual WaterFire Performance Art Installation
One of the best suggestions an anonymous person on the Tripadvisor Forums gave me was to check out WaterFire in Providence, Rhode Island. Thank you CockleCove, wherever you are! A little research online confirmed this was the type of thing I would want to see – and I planned a weekend around the event.
WaterFire is a living sculpture, or themed performance art piece event with approximately 80 bonfires burning throughout the waterways of downtown Providence. The program runs on specific Saturdays, from May through November. If this sounds boring, I’m not conveying it well. If your trip to New England coincides with WaterFire, it is well worth a detour. If you’ve never been to Providence – this is a great event to plan around during a good time of year to visit.
Bonfires are placed in the water at strategic locations and the community and visitors gather to watch the lighting and the burning. We become part of the art as the sun sets and the fire pits glow around us. Music is a major component as well and changes with each performance.
The event gets crowded, but not unbearably so. I got there half an hour early and was able to secure a waterfront spot along the central WaterFire Basin. It is easy to move from place to place to view the other fire displays along the water. There are a lot of families and it is a great event for children who aren’t easily frightened or tired. This seemed to be the type of event locals would attend regularly, not run from because of invading tourist hoards.
When the Fire Tending boats arrive, the excitement mounts. Volunteers in boats light the bonfires, then tend to the wood as it burns. Viewing from shore is encouraged but there are gondolas available from a third party, Gondolari. While the gondolas looked romantic, there was an industrial quality about the Fire Tending boats that better melded with the WaterFire experience,.
The 2013 schedule is here. The season runs through November 9, when there will be a WaterFire Salute to Veterans. The fire and music starts at sundown and ends at 1am. There are food and drink vendors scattered throughout the area.
My hotel, the Courtyard Marriott Downtown overlooked the WaterFire Basin, so I left the curtains open for a view of the burning bonfires. Unfortunately, this hotel also has really loud air conditioners; it was preferable to leave the windows open and listen to the music and crowd.
WaterFire is free but a $5 donation is requested. Each donator will receive a Ribbon of Light so they can become part of the installation. The goal is to have a massive number of Ribbons of Light melding with WaterFire.
A long weekend is enough time for a first trip to Providence, and it is easy to get around without a car. The Rhode Island Historical Society offers enough historical tours to fill a weekend, or art lovers can find major work at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art and unique items in its shop. Newport is a convenient day trip by bus or car. Ethnic or emerging neighborhoods are filled with so many great sounding restaurants it’s hard to narrow down choices for a 2-3 night trip. Yet, I had such fresh seafood and great service at Hemenway’s that I went back again for lunch on Sunday before I left.
Click here for great deals on Providence hotels.
And, here for Newport hotels.
This article was originally posted July 2, 2013